Carla Cicero, Staff Curator

Closed (1) Advanced Preparation Techniques at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

UC Berkeley's Museum of Vertebrate Zoology is a major repository for surveyed and/or salvaged North American wildlife, especially California species. We typical have several thousand frozen carcasses at any given time, with a large diversity of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and birds. These carcasses come from many sources -- wildlife rescue agencies, oil spill clean-ups, USGS, California Department of Fish and Game, USFWS, and several other wildlife organizations as well as individual collectors. All of these animals will end up as research specimens in our collection adding to our already large holdings (over 650,000 specimens), which are used by scientists worldwide to answer questions about evolution, ecology, and our changing environment. In this URAP, a select group of students will assist in the preparation of research specimens for the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

Student Responsibilities:
This URAP is for Advanced Specimen Preparation. Thus, students already must have experience in preparing specimens (at least skeletons) through prior work in the MVZ Preparation Lab and/or Prep Lab Class. Students will focus on preparing study skins, but may also prepare skeletons or fluid specimens. Specimens are prepared following the Museum's standard procedures. During the preparations, students perform a necropsy on the animals and record all observational data in a catalog. They take measurements, tissue samples, and any other parts that add value to the specimen. Students gain further training on vertebrate diversity and hands-on lab experience. Students are encouraged to explore questions about species' diet, parasite loads, molting patterns, morphology, and other topics potentially leading to research projects. Students are also encouraged to concurrently attend the MVZ Lunch Seminar Series to learn more about science done at the Museum and current research in natural history.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Terri Barclay

Qualifications: Students must have at least one, and preferable two semester's worth of specimen preparation experience, or have prepared over 25 museum quality specimens in the past. Students have to be familiar with the MVZ's record keeping and lab safety protocols, or be quick learners. Students must have knowledge of vertebrate anatomy and should be able to identify major organs and the sex of individuals. Students also must have excellent organizational skills and show attention to detail. We hope to find students who are both good with their hands and have intellectual vigor for these positions. We request that students work a minimum of 5 hours per week.

Weekly Hours: 3-6 hrs

Related website: http://mvz.berkeley.edu

Closed (2) Geographic Variation in Birds of Western North America

Applications for Fall 2017 are now closed for this project.

Students will assist with research projects that investigate geographic variation and species limits in birds. Work may involve morphologic measurements, color measurements, DNA laboratory work, and/or sound analysis. Positions are not available every semester, and students must already have some experience in the MVZ working with specimens and data. Students will meet weekly with supervisor Cicero to discuss progress and problems. Because this work requires a significant level of training, students should commit to at least one year (preferably longer) to carry out projects.


Students will learn how to conduct museum-based research. Successful students may co-author papers and present on their work at professional meetings.

Day-to-day supervisor for this project: Carla Cicero

Qualifications: Students must be committed to gaining research experience in preparation for graduate school or a professional career in biology. Students must be detail-oriented, organized, meticulous, and be able to think critically and record data carefully and legibly. Basic computer literacy, especially with spreadsheets, required. Students should be able to work in teams and independently. Minimum of 9 hours required per week.

Weekly Hours: 9-12 hrs

Related website: https://sites.google.com/site/carlacic/home
Related website: http://mvz.berkeley.edu